Canadian Forest Service Publications

Unravelling the past to manage Newfoundland’s forests for the future. 2016. Arsenault, A.; LeBlanc, R.; Earle, E.; Brooks, D.; Clarke, B.; Lavigne, D.; Royer, L. The Forestry Chronicle 92(4): 487-502.

Year: 2016

Available from: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 37552

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (download)

Abstract

The forests of Newfoundland represent a unique type of boreal ecosystem with diverse environmental gradients that exercise strong control over disturbances and vegetation. We have assembled and analyzed a comprehensive database on disturbance history in Newfoundland. Defoliating insects, led by the eastern spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana Clemens) and the hemlock looper (Lambdina fiscellaria Guenée), have the largest disturbance footprint on the island. Infrequent wildfires (fire cycle = 769 years) had a decisive role in driving forest succession, particularly in the Central Newfoundland Forest and Maritime Barrens ecoregions. We hypothesize that the historical disturbance regime in Newfoundland would not have enabled steady-state conditions, although the amount of old-growth forests and deadwood would likely have been greater than it is today. We argue that the implementation of the natural range of variation (NRV) concept in forest management for such non-equilibrium systems will be challenging in Newfoundland and in other regions of Canada. We propose guiding principles to adapt the NRV concept using ecological knowledge. If a science-based approach is desired, assumptions about NRV should be tested using a rigorous experimental design. We encourage the establishment of large-scale experiments in at least a portion of forestry operations to enable an ecosystem science-based approach.

Plain Language Summary

The forests of Newfoundland represent a unique type of boreal ecosystem with sharp environmental gradients that have a strong control on disturbances and vegetation. We have assembled and analyzed a comprehensive database on disturbance history in Newfoundland using geospatial and statistical analyses. Defoliating insects, led by the eastern spruce budworm and the hemlock looper, have the largest disturbance footprint on the island. Infrequent wildfires (fire cycle = 769 years) had a decisive role in driving forest succession particularly in the Central Newfoundland Forest and Maritime Barrens ecoregions. We hypothesize that the historical disturbance regime in Newfoundland would not have enabled steady-state conditions, although the amount of old-growth forests and deadwood would likely have been higher than it is today. We argue that the implementation of the natural range of variation (NRV) concept in forest management for such nonequilibrium systems is not obvious. We propose guiding principles to adapt the natural range of variation concept using ecological knowledge. If a science-based approach is desired, assumptions about NRV should be tested using a rigorous experimental design. We encourage the establishment of large-scale experiments in at least a portion of forestry operations to enable an ecosystem science-based approach.

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